Author Topic: Would a service dog be able to help me?  (Read 672 times)

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Offline moevelvet

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Would a service dog be able to help me?
« on: August 23, 2017, 01:47:33 PM »
Hello, my name is Raquel.  I am 21 and have been professionally diagnosed with autism, anxiety, and depression.  I also have reason to believe that I have some form of PTSD, but can't be diagnosed due to personal reasons.

I am a US citizen and live in Ohio with my parents, but I am planning to go to college in Alberta, where my boyfriend lives.

I think a service dog would be helpful with sensory problems and panic attacks.  I freeze up when I'm overwhelmed and can't talk, and sometimes have difficulty with large crowds and loud noises.  When I'm very upset, I can't control my body and often cry or twitch.

I've come here because most resources I've found for autism service dogs are geared towards parents of autistic children, and 1. I am not a child and 2. I would like my parents to have less control over my life.  I'm hoping that a service dog would enable me to become more independent and have more control over my own life.

Offline ccunnin3

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2017, 04:02:33 PM »
No one here can tell you if a service dog is right for you or if you qualify for one.  That is something ti discuss with your treatment team.

But you're right. The majority of service dog organizations for autism are for children. There are some exceptions though.

Also, know that Canada and the US have different laws regarding service dogs. I believe Alberta has a certification system.
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Offline OlgatheGSD

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2017, 04:16:01 PM »
Hello and welcome! I know Candian laws on service dogs vary greatly from US service dogs, though I'm not sure on the specifics. Have you looked into Canadian programs?

Another thing to consider is if you are disabled by your disorders, and if Canada will agree that it is disabling. If yes, then also consider what would be easier than a dog. If a dog is still the best choice, then think about ways a dog could help you with your disability. For example, meds have no effect on my night terrors so when I wake from them my dog had been trained to lick my face until I stop screaming and crying, then lays on me partially to help me calm down. Think of things like that were it would be hard to mitigate your symptoms under traditional methods.

Also consider the downside to service dogs. For me, it is getting looks constantly because I have a big dog everywhere. It's really hard some days where I just want to get in and get out of somewhere and everyone feels like they need to tell me their opinion. I have agoraphobia, and I have a walking people magnet. You will get stopped and asked a lot of questions, you will get glared at, you will probably at one point be denied access and discriminated against solely because of your SD. Also, its difficult planning things to an extra degree whem you have an SD. I want to one day go to Disneyland with my kids, so I will have to figure out what to do with Olga. Do I board her at Disneyland, do I leave her home with my mom, do I just take her with me and not experience everyone on the rides at the same time? Things that would normally just a pack and go are suddenly very complicated. It's a hard road, but I find it completely worth it. Only you can weigh your options and figure out the pros and cons yourself.
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Offline moevelvet

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2017, 04:35:21 PM »
I would consider myself disabled by my conditions, as it is very difficult or impossible to leave the house by myself.

I managed to make short trips to meet my boyfriend at work a few times while I was staying with him, but I get overwhelmed if there's more than one destination to think about, even if it's just the return trip.

In Ohio, it's much more difficult since I don't have access to public transportation and don't have a driver's license.

I've read that service dogs are able to help calm you down when you're having a panic attack, which is the main reason I've been looking into them.  When I'm with my boyfriend, he's usually able to calm me down, but I'm very worried about going to college, where I'll be alone.

Considering the extra attention, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't mind it too much.  I have difficulty starting conversations, so I'm often starved for interaction.

Offline Moonsong

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2017, 08:21:46 PM »
Calming you during a panic attack is not a task, and if that's all that your dog does it is not a service dog regardless of whether you are disabled.

What tasks do you want the dog to perform? What is it that you cannot do or struggle immensely to do that you expect the dog to do for you that is related to your disability? It cannot be emotional support (so anything like cuddling, making you feel better, providing companionship, allowing you to pet them, etc is considered emotional support).

Also, has a doctor agreed that you are disabled? I don't know about Canada, but in the U.S. case law has shown us that you need a doctor to agree that you are disabled in order to qualify for a service dog.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2017, 10:24:13 PM »
In order to prove you qualify (not in order to qualify).  A person might be disabled by mental illness to such an extent that they are not able to prove they qualify and yet still qualify anyway.  But for most of us, at least here on SDC the standard that we use is whether you sincerely believe you could convince a judge that you qualify since ultimately only judges can make a determination about whether a person is legally disabled under the ADA.

Courts have found that especially with mental illness if the person is not in treatment with a mental healthcare professional who agrees that they are disabled then the individual probably won't qualify as disabled.  Specifically look at the Debby Rose case.
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Offline Solace

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2017, 10:31:25 PM »
Calming you during a panic attack is not a task

According to the Department of Justice, "Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the personís disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA."  Bold mine, of course.

https://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

Offline Solace

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2017, 10:34:15 PM »
Also

"Q4. If someone's dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?
A. It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog's mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA."

https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html

Offline Moonsong

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2017, 11:02:16 PM »
In order to prove you qualify (not in order to qualify).  A person might be disabled by mental illness to such an extent that they are not able to prove they qualify and yet still qualify anyway. 

Thanks for catching and correcting that!


Solace - let me clarify. Calming a person alone is not a task. If the dog simply calms you, that is not a task. If they perform tasks that do calm you, that is a task. Calming alone is emotional support. It depends on what the task is. For the purpose of the OP, I tried to get them to think of specific tasks (actions that they cannot do or severely struggle to do themselves) rather than thinking of calming in general. I'm sorry that I wasn't more specific, I can see now how that would have caused confusion.
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Offline SalukiLover

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2017, 03:07:23 AM »
Also, its difficult planning things to an extra degree whem you have an SD. I want to one day go to Disneyland with my kids, so I will have to figure out what to do with Olga. Do I board her at Disneyland, do I leave her home with my mom, do I just take her with me and not experience everyone on the rides at the same time?

For some rides, you can take your dog right on.  For others, typically those with a height requirement, they can put the dog in a crate and a lead (what they call a manager) will watch her.

Source: Seth goes to Disneyland with me at least once a month.  :smile:
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Offline SandyStern

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2017, 07:19:48 AM »
Just a quick word about tasks that calm or comfort.  In my work with various legislative bodies, a lot of attention is being paid to this issue.  Since the ADA is clear that calming/comforting does not constitute work, and because of the obvious vulnerability to exploitation ("Visit" command, handler pats thigh, saying "visit;" dog puts head on thigh; handler is calmed/comforted) the trend is moving toward clarifying that cued behavior is not a task if it merely calms or comforts.

I know some members may disagree (vehemently) but I concur with the above.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2017, 10:29:47 AM »
Sandy this has been an issue for a long time.  I've seen people in the PSDS group operate on a theory that if they choose a dog who is not naturally affectionate and then teach that dog to cuddle, hug, or kiss on command that this makes it a service dog.  I think that if we apply rationality, if we ask ourselves, "could I convince a total stranger, one who has no particular knowledge about mental illness, disability, or service dogs, could I convince such a person that this was a legitimate application of the concept of "work or task" that they're going to see it isn't going to fly.

The thing is that judges, those alone who are qualified to determine whether or not a person is disabled under the ADA and whether or not their dog is a legitimate service dog do not hang out in Facebook PSD groups.  They do not subscribe to this mythology and are mystified by it.  If it requires some kind of insider knowledge of "how PSDs work," that the average man on the street does not possess, then it's not going to pass the court and therefore it does not make a dog a legitimate service dog.

I'll further suggest that if a person's response to this observation is that they know how to avoid going to court, then in their heart they know they do not meet the legal definition in someway and are to their own heart falsely claiming the dog to be a service dog.  Because that is what the standard is:  whether or not you can convince someone who knows far more about the law than you do, but far less about mental illness or PSD culture.

If it would be a natural comforting behavior of a typical dog, then it does not matter whether it is on cue or not, it is not a task.

How does a PSD legitimately calm a person?  Well here's one example:  Suppose the person gradually and subconsciously winds themselves up into an anxious state.  They start on a train of thought that spirals through thought distortions blowing a situation out of proportion until they trigger a panic response or other anxiety symptom.  They aren't doing this intentionally.  It's part of the illness process.  But it happens, it is distressing, and it feels like there is nothing they can do about it because by the time they realize what is happening they are so far down into the pattern that they cannot think clearly to pull themselves out.  This is a common experience for people with anxiety.  If this happens while they are in a therapy session the therapist can recognize what is happening before they go beyond the point of rational thought and direct them to do grounding or self-calming exercises to stop the spiral and stabilize themselves.

It is possible in some cases for a dog to also do this.  To recognize behavior patterns that reliably predict a person is starting to spiral even though they haven't realized it themselves.  For example, the person might rub their face, clench and unclench their fists, pace, rock or do something else very consistently which predicts the beginning of the spiral to observers.  You teach the dog to recognize that behavior and then to signal the handler when they observe it and the handler starts the grounding or self-calming exercise while they are still clear headed enough to recall and execute the exercise.  And the person is now able to cut off the spiral before it has gone too far.

The catch with this approach is that it requires a person to have a very strong foundation in therapy, a supportive therapist, and a willingness to condition not just the dog but themselves.  The person must be classically conditioned to respond to the dog's signal automatically and without conscious thought to begin the recovery exercise.  This takes a significant amount of work in training BOTH the dog and the handler in their separate tasks.

But it is a legitimate, provable, logical, task that helps people with anxiety problems that spiral out of control.

I'm about to be late for an appointment and need to potty my dogs and hopefully (fingers crossed) toss a few balls for them.  If I remember to come back, I have more to say on this topic of grounding tasks that I think is useful/helpful.  I may have to be reminded to return to this thread if anyone is interested in hearing more about pulling off the training effectively or making a case for it being a legitimate task.
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Offline Moonsong

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2017, 10:49:21 AM »
I'd like hear more
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Offline OlgatheGSD

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2017, 11:45:37 AM »
Olga is trained to respond to a certain type of sigh I do because my therapist noticed I do it when I start to shake pre-panic attack. She either nudges my hand in public or gets up in lap if I am home and essentially makes me focus on her so I can have my thoughts derailed and I'm back on happy things. She does the same thing with me crying or yelling for other emotional outbursts but for those she is significantly more persistent since it's meant to break me of my emotional tunnel vision from BPD. I didn't consider the panic attack one a task since it's literally her just going "You made a bad noise and now you must look at my cute face until you stop shaking because I love you". I did shape the response and train the duration, though.

For Moevelvet though, since the PTSD diagnosis isn't there, would the panic attack calming task be covered under the ADA? It very specifically says PTSD panic attacks so I'm not sure on that part what is ok for calming during a panic attack and what isn't if there are different reasons for the panic attacks themselves.
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Offline SandyStern

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Re: Would a service dog be able to help me?
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2017, 12:51:51 PM »
Really helpful, Kirsten.
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